A U.N. Report Says Butterflies Are Going Extinct, Because This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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It has been said that something as small as the flap of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. Ashton Kutcher taught us that (kind of), but even he probably couldn’t foresee the irony that is a new United Nations report suggesting that the looming extinction of butterflies could have cause a ripple effect that could have far-reaching consequences.

Here’s the skinny: Since World War II, farming practices have changed dramatically, grasslands that used to contain wildflowers (actual flowers, not the Ryan Adams jam) have been replaced by strip malls and housing developments, and global warming has caused a shift in what plants and animals are indigenious to the same environment at the same time.

Mashable spoke with some of the authors of the report, and the results are something short of uplifting:

The report is the result of more than two years of work by scientists across the globe who got together under several different U.N. agencies to come up with an assessment of Earth’s biodiversity, starting with the pollinators. It’s an effort similar to what the United Nations has done with global warming, putting together an encyclopedic report to tell world leaders what’s happening and give them options for what can be done.

But these are problems that can be fixed, and unlike global warming, the solutions don’t require countries to agree on global action — they can act locally, said Robert Watson, a top British ecological scientist and vice chairman of the scientific panel. The solutions offered mostly involve changing the way land and farming is managed.

Basically, bees and butterflies are disappearing and it’s not your fault, but it’s definitely our collective faults. The good news is the experts say that we totally still have time to do something about it. And if you’re not leaping at the chance to avoid such dire circumstances, keep this analogy in mind: That flap of a butterfly’s wings is actually the extinction of the invertebrate pollinators and that “typhoon halfway around the world” is actually your morning coffee:

The 20,000 or so species of pollinators are key to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of crops each year — from fruits and vegetables to coffee and chocolate.